The Importance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

But the Fannie fiasco matters for a less obvious reason. There are other accidents waiting to happen in the social entitlements whose costs also will jeopardize American long-term growth. Social Security and Fannie aren’t often spoken of in the same breath — as programs go, we associate Social Security with the swinging-and-60-plus crowd, not the Swinging ’60s.

What Social Security and Fannie have in common is that both have lived important segments of their lives off-budget. Tax increases are likely to pay for Fannie and Freddie. These increases will remind voters that being off-budget doesn’t mean a program won’t eventually penalize the taxpayer. Burned by Fannie, voters may get ready for entitlement reform.

And how the trouble traces its roots back to the 60s.

A Nice Tribute to Jesse Helms

Two events early in his Senate career showcased Helms’s unflinching nature and his political skills. In 1975, he engineered a visit to the U.S. by Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn over the objections of the State Department, which forbade its own employees from attending a major Solzhenitsyn speech in Washington. State also blocked a proposed visit to the White House, leading Helms to accuse President Gerald Ford of “cowering timidly for fear of offending Communists.”

That incident helped spur Reagan to challenge Ford for the GOP nomination the next year. Reagan lost the first five primaries, and he entered the North Carolina contest broke and under pressure to pull out. But Helms and his chief strategist Tom Ellis refused to give up. They employed Helms’s huge, direct-mail list to build a grass-roots army of volunteers and raise money to air 30-minute speeches by Reagan across the state.

Emphasizing the Panama Canal “giveaway” and smaller government, Reagan won an upset victory and was able to battle Ford all the way to the GOP convention. He showed such strength at the convention that Ford invited him to deliver off-the-cuff remarks to the delegates. Reagan was so inspiring that some of Ford’s own delegates exclaimed, “We just nominated the wrong candidate.” Reagan later acknowledged how Helms’s intervention rescued his political career.

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It’s a fair assessment of Helms, unlike most you’ll read in the mainstream media and other liberal sources, who didn’t even wait until the man buried to spit on his grave. He did change the course of history: without Helms, there likely would never have been a President Reagan. The world is a better place because Jesse Helms, for all his flaws, was in it.

Book Review: The Forgotten Man: A New History of The Great Depression by Amity Shlaes

Earlier this week, I finished Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man, a re-examination of the Great Depression that points out the errors in the commonly believed myth of that period in our nation’s history.

One example is the belief that Herbert Hoover was a straight laissez-faire President who did nothing to attempt to revive the economy. In fact, Hoover was an activist as President, and even before during his tenure as Secretary of Commerce. The primary difference between Hoover and FDR was that Hoover restricted his activity to the Constitutionally permitted powers of the federal government; FDR showed no such respect for the will of law.

Similarly, FDR and his Brain Trust are commonly believed to have selfessly focused solely on reviving America’s economy. But like another President who promised to focus like a laser beam on the economy, the objectives spread far and wide from the promised goal. In fact, FDR’s advisors were open admirers of Communist Russia who were seeking to remake America in an image they chose. The Great Depression was actually viewed as a great opportunity to remake America, rather than something that needed to be overcome.

It’s also claimed that FDR’s policies brought us out the Depression. Shlaes shows that the US went into a double-dip Depression, with the economy getting worse just when the rest of the world was growing again. Others acknowledge that fact, and claim that it was World War II spending that brought us out of the economic funk. To the extent that World War II helped us, it was that focusing on the international situation took FDR’s focus away from the domestic realm, allowing the economy to grow without further fetters being placed on it.

It’s also claimed that FDR was a decisive leader who charted a bold course. In reality, he frustrated his advisers with his indecisiveness. On at least one occasion, he even sent representatives to an international economic conference with differing instructions, resulting in parts of the American delegation negotiating against each other, angering the British Prime Minister. On another occasion, after a conference that achieved the goals he had set for it, he repudiated it, rejecting the agreement reached.

This book was excellent in dispelling a number of myths about the Depression and careful readers will note a number of policy prescriptions for the future that will allow us to avoid similar situations in the future.

Book Review: A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement by J. William Mittendorf II

I’m a sucker for books about the 1964 Republican Presidential campaign, and this book was definitely worth the read. Mittendorf, one of the early backers of drafting Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the 1964 GOP Presidential nomination, writes his version of the campaign’s history. It seems like he read one too many histories referring to his organization as “amateurs” and felt the need to set the record straight, as the organization pulled together many people with a great amount of political experience and those without (such as Clif White) turned out to be extremely talented in their own right. (In his own book, Bob Novak sys Clif White ran the best convention machine he’d ever seen. Not bad for a supposed amateur.) They were certainly a far more effective organization than the “Arizona Mafia” that Goldwater surrounded himself with following his nomination.

He shows the committee’s greatest work may have been its filling of vacant positions at the local level of the Republican party a year ahead of time allowing them to get conservatives into delegate slots for the convention, catching the old guard of the GOP off guard. He shows their concern when Goldwater repeatedly turned them down, as running for President could hurt him back in Arizona and could mean leaving his beloved Senate. Fortunately, Goldwater was convinced to run since for him not to run could set the conservative movement back a decade or more.

He actually continues the story beyond the ’64 election showing that many of those who helped get Goldwater the nomination were instrumental in winning Nixon the same prize in 1968. That’s hopefully a mistake he regrets.

It’s good read, perhaps the truest insider’s perspective I’ve read yet on that doomed, but ultimately victorious, campaign.

I love this story

Charles James Napier – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A story for which Napier is famous involves a delegation of Hindu locals approaching him and complaining about prohibition of Sati, often referred to at the time as suttee, by British authorities. This was the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. The exact wording of his response varies somewhat in different reports, but the following version captures its essence:

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”